A little late to the party, I know, but I finally got around to watching Robert Eggers’ directorial debut, The VVitch (which I’m just going to be calling The Witch from here on out)! And it is very very good, slow-build horror.
The Witch takes place in 1630s New England, where a family is being banished from their Puritan community for theological differences. William, Katherine, and their four children set out alone to try to eke out a living in the wilderness. Katherine has a fifth child, but the baby is stolen, and ultimately the family descends ever deeper into a spiral of fear and suspicion (of the woods surrounding them, and eventually of each other as well).
The movie explores many complicated themes, including the effects of long-term isolation on the human psyche, the power of faith, and ultimately with the kinds of fear and paranoia that can result when people seek desperately to explain the hardships life throws at them. It’s a story that could have played out the same way regardless of whether there really is a witch out there in the woods, and for me that’s where the real horror lies (though I also loved the unabashedly uncivilized and otherwordly glimpses we get into the witching world!)
Far Out Isn’t Far Enough: the Tomi Ungerer story is a documentary about French illustrator and writer Jean-Thomas “Tomi” Ungerer. He emigrated from France to the United States in his twenties, and experienced the Golden age of advertising illustrations in NYC. He then stepped into children’s book industry, later flourished in creating political posters. It provides an overview of his creative career is visually and intellectually stimulating. Ungerer’s personal experience put the audience in perspective of his work. For instance, Ungere’s children’s books often have elements of fear, this is due to his childhood experience. This film is true to the artist’s creative process, which is influenced very much by what’s around him. It is amazing to see his journey pursuing what he is interested in, and at the same time, pushing the public’s boundary on the image of a children’s book author–Ungerer was in the middle of the controversy when he did erotic illustrations while famously known as a children’s book author, his books were banned from public libraries at one point.
Ungerer seems very spirited even in his old age, passionate about life and art. The documentary highlights his playful personality. He is an important figure in the world of art and he inspired many artists, including the creator of Where the Wild Things are.
Books by Tomi Ungerer:
The Three Robbers
Oto (in Hebrew)
Crictor (in Italian)
If you like the Better than fiction posts, read another one here:
Better than fiction: Defiant Requiem
Following the narratives of survivors, Defiant Requiem tells the unbelievable story of Rafael Schachter, a Czech conductor who sparks hope and spirit among his fellow prisoners, in the darkest time at the Terezin concentration camp. This documentary is nicely done: the mournful music really enhanced the survivor’s account of their history with the Holocaust and with their source of hope–Schachter. It was Schachter’s endless pursuit of music that made labor and torture more bearable; it was through music, that the prisons were able to express something they did not dare to say to the Nazis. It is a remarkable film to watch; it is painfully beautify.
Related: art produced during the holocaust
Terezín : voices from the Holocaust
My secret camera : life in the Lodz ghetto
Art from the ashes : a Holocaust anthology